Walking in Moose Factory, Ontario

We paddled into the Cree hamlet of Moose Factory against the salty headwind blowing up river from James Bay, manoeuvring our canoe between the undulating swells caused by the water taxis buzzing through the narrow channel that separates the island community from the main body of the Moose River. We looked how men look when they pull the last of 45,000 strokes with their wooden paddles following eight long, cold, glorious days on a river: stubbled, achy and desperate to stand erect and walk.

It would be disingenuous to suggest we explored Moose Factory; we skimmed it with tired eyes and fresh legs for a few hours along its dirt roads, visiting only the gas station’s convenience store and the Cree Cultural Interpretive Centre. The town’s signature travel-guide feature–the empty buildings of the 19th century Hudson’s Bay Company stores and lodgings–were found to be greying and dilapidated in congruity with the summer mud and wild grass overgrowing the roads. The vibrance of modern life in Moose Factory was implied in the satellite dishes hanging off the corners of every home and in the pockmarked pickup trucks rumbling past us on their circuitous island route, and in the signs promoting sewing classes and music festivals and employment opportunities.

Had we been lost–indeed, had we any ambition towards an itinerary–no shortage of kind strangers rolled down their windows and offered to help. But on the river we had spent our capacity to explore and discover, and there was not much left for us but to walk idly in a circle and then curl up around a hot meal at the lodge.

Thus, these photographs of Moose Factory, on the fifth of August, 2014.

See also: 
Paddling the Mattagami and Moose Rivers to Moosonee – a trip report

Paddling the Mattagami and Moose Rivers north to Moosonee

On a mucky gravel bar downriver from a towering hydro dam we took to the water like creaky old boy scouts, haphazardly greased in bug juice and squinting through the drizzle.

All around us the boreal forest went by as unmetered verse:

Spruce, spruce, birch, spruce,
Birch, spruce, spruce, spruce, birch,
Spruce, birch, spruce,
Spruce, spruce, birch, birch…

The water curdled to life as rapids and goose tails and the breaching of trout, while on either bank the dark, empty woods remained disarmingly silent.

The Mattagami River at sunset from Sandbar Island


This is a summary account of an expedition of the lower Mattagami and Moose Rivers from July 29 to August 6, 2014. Three men, two boats (one a 17-foot Nova Craft Prospector canoe; the other a 13.5-foot open-water kayak) and about two hundred and fifty pounds of outfit.

Part I: 86km on the Mattagami River from Kipling OPG Hydro Station to the junction with the Missinaibi River and the start of the Moose River.

Part II: 94km on the Moose River from the Missinaibi junction to the (former) Tidewater Provincial Park.

Part III: Moose Factory, Moosonee, and the Polar Bear Express.

Part IV: Tips for interested trippers

Continue reading “Paddling the Mattagami and Moose Rivers north to Moosonee”

End of E6 in Toronto?

On a recent canoe trip down the Mattagami River, tucked into my drybags amongst the fleece and flannel were seven rolls of Fuji Velvia 100, one of the most brilliant 35mm films ever made. Velvia is transparency (or “slide”) film and requires a unique chromogenic process known as E6 to develop the images exposed.

[This post has been updated on Sept 9, 2014. See below.]

E6 processing involves up to six chemical baths for development, several of which are unique to slide film (as opposed to negative film that nowadays is mostly C41 processed). As a hobbyist I’ve never ventured into E6 and have always taken my slide film to a lab.

As of this summer, I’m told, the company that supplied Toronto’s photography labs with those chemicals has ceased importing them from Japan. (I also learned from one lab that one of the parts used in the process, made by a German company, is also out of distribution.)

Thus, Toronto’s major labs — including Toronto Image Works, Northern Artists, and Downtown Camera — have ceased to offer E6 processing.

But there is still hope, for now. An enthusiastic Toronto photographer named David Nardi is offering E6 processing service by mail order. Check out his website e6it.ca for details.

Earlier this month I met him in the lobby of his High Park condo amid nearly a dozen others dropping off orders of either 35mm slide film or 120 negative film, which he also develops. I’m still waiting for the results — his lab is out in the country and he is just one person, after all — but I’m as curious about his developments as I am contemplative of the end of an era.

Results to be posted soon. In addition to David Nardi, the labs also recommended Borealis Lab in Montreal, which accepts E6 orders by mail for processing.

Meanwhile, if any readers have any news or further details about E6 in Toronto, please comment or contact me.

Update September 9, 2014: David Nardi at e6it.ca has announced on his website that he is suspending services due to demand. The site also points users to labs that, for the time being, are still offering E6 processing: VCG Creative Imaging in Toronto and Borealis in Montreal.

This has always been a one-man, part-time, low-volume, batch processing operation. My machine is wonderfully versatile, however it cannot support the large quantities of film that I’ve been receiving. My throughput is quite low and my last run has taken a week to complete: this, combined with a relentless full-time work schedule has hampered my ability to offer reasonable and timely runs in the future.

Viva Velvia.

Photos by Richard A. Johnson